'Come on Northamptonshire, I know we can do this!'
Northamptonshire health chief: "Every sacrifice, every day at home, every covered face, every step aside and every friend unhugged is helping to stop the spread"
Spring has sprung and there are green shoots of hope all around. I’m confident that the people of Northamptonshire will keep up their good work over the months ahead but there’s always a measured dollop of caution!
I have some good news and some bad news I’m afraid. Northamptonshire’s coronavirus cases have been steadily reducing over the last few weeks. The latest publicly available weekly positive case total is 548, which is 71% lower than the first week in February 2021. However, this trend is starting to turn, and we’re now even starting to see increases in case in some parts of the county; something we haven’t seen in some time.
More hopefully, our due to our vaccination of the elderly and vulnerable, the number of sad deaths of loved ones has started to reduce more rapidly. Bed occupancy in the county’s hospitals has also decreased to levels last seen at the beginning of November last year, despite demand for Intensive Care beds.
Schools and colleges are now open, care home residents are allowed one regular visitor and you are permitted to meet with one other person for outdoor recreation or activity. These are positive and welcome steps forwards on the route back to a more normal life but my colleagues in Public Health Northamptonshire and I are keen to remind residents that they must stay at home until further lifting of lockdown measures on 29th March to avoid a resurgence in cases.
We must all continue to get tested, get vaccinated when the call comes and follow the gold standard protective trio: Hands, Face, Space. This will ensure that the county progresses through the four steps outlined in the Government’s ‘Roadmap out of lockdown’ at the earliest opportunity.
The roadmap for emerging from lockdown includes a five-week pause between each major step to give scientists time to gather and analyse data. In order for this to be an effective exit plan, the real key is to keep testing. That way we know where the virus is and we can stop it in its tracks. About 1 in 3 people with coronavirus do not have symptoms but can still pass it on others so regular testing of people without symptoms is vital.
The following people now have access to FREE regular rapid lateral flow testing:
* adults who are unable to work from home
* secondary school pupils and college students
* staff of primary and secondary schools, nurseries and colleges
* adults in households, childcare and support bubbles of nursery children, primary and secondary-age pupils and college students
Pupils in secondary schools and colleges will now get home testing kits from their school or college. Adults in their families, meanwhile, can get a COVID-19 test twice each week at a local test site or by collecting a home test kit from a test site. For more information, visit the national government website which is regularly updated with local information. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/rapid-lateral-flow-testing-for-households-and-bubbles-of-school-pupils-and-staff.
With our children and young adults back to school and college we are expecting cases to rise as we test more people, but this gives us all the chance to stay home and self-isolate and stop the spread further. The great news so far is that in the period 8 to 10 March, there were a total of 13,319 school tests carried out for Northamptonshire residents, of which only seven were positive (0.05%).
You may have read or heard in the news that a small number of countries in Europe have paused the roll out of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to reports of blood clots in a small number of people vaccinated. I want to reassure you that these pauses are purely precautionary whilst authorities in those countries investigate but both the World Health Organisation and the UK medicines regulator (MHRA) have made it clear that they have no concerns given the current available evidence.
In the UK, more than 11 million people have already received at least one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and reports of blood clots so far are no greater than the number that we would naturally expect in the vaccinated population.
On a day to day note, please continue to keep a two metre distance from those outside your household or bubble outdoors until the government guidance dictates otherwise and don’t mix indoors with anyone outside your household bubble.
Remember that even if one or both of you have received one or both doses of the vaccine or you have recently tested negative using a rapid lateral flow test this does not yet mean that you can safely mix with others. It won’t be long before we can meet in gardens or outdoors as a household or group of six, but until then please just meet one other adult outdoors at distance.
Everything we are doing is helping stop the spread of Covid-19. Every sacrifice, every day at home, every covered face, every step aside and every friend unhugged is helping to stop the spread. Come on Northamptonshire, let’s keep going. I know we can do this.